February 11, 2018

Beef and Butternut Squash (or Kabocha Squash) Stew


Sunday afternoons typically involve meal prep for the week.  This afternoon of cooking is always fun for me while also being a great way to stay organized and on track with healthy and yummy meals for the week ahead.  Since I'm typically prepping a few different things, I usually enlist the help of my kitchen gadgets, such as my electric steamer, pressure cooker, and slow cooker, to make it a little easier.

This stew is a snap to put together, and you can simplify the prep by taking advantage of some finds at Trader Joe's (or likely your preferred market).  Trader Joe's has one pound bags of organic cubed kabocha squash in their frozen foods section, and they also have julienned sun-dried tomatoes.  If you don't like kabocha squash, you can use butternut squash, which is also available pre-cubed in Trader Joe's fresh produce section  I've also seen it at Whole Foods and at Costco.  Chopped stew meat is available in the Trader Joe's meat section, or you can also get this from your butcher at another market.

The usual beef-and-potato stews are bland, in my opinion.  This stew is dressed up with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, sweet and nutty squash, and some Marsala wine.  Before everything goes into the slow cooker, there's some sautéing to be done; searing the meat keeps it from turning mushy, and sautéing the onions, garlic, and herbs just pops their flavor.  After the sautéing is done, you add the Marsala wine to the pan, and this helps gets those brown bits that will add so much more richness to the stew.  Then, everything goes in the slow cooker, and voila - you've got one yummy meal!

Beef and Butternut Squash Stew / Beef and Kabocha Squash Stew
Yields 4 servings

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. oil of your choice
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. stew beef, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 lb. butternut squash or kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (or one 3-oz. bag of Trader Joe's julienned sun-dried tomatoes)
3 cups beef or chicken broth
2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-parsley leaves

Directions:
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, and pepper, and whisk to combine.  Then, add the beef cubes and toss gently to coat.  Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and cook for about 5 minutes until it becomes tender.  Add the beef cubes to the pan in batches and cook, turning occasionally, until the beef is browned on all sides (about 5 minutes).  As the beef cubes batch finish, transfer them to the slow cooker.  While the final batch of beef cubes cooks, add the Marsala wine and use a spatula to scrape up the browned bits from the pan.

Transfer the remaining beef cubes, onion, and pan juices to the slow cooker.  Add the squash cubes, sun-dried tomatoes, and broth, and stir to combine.  Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 8 hours, until the beef and squash are tender.  Serve with a sprinkle of parsley.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis' Happy Cooking

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